Microsoft this morning unveiled its plans for updating its wildly-popular Hotmail webmail service, which currently serves over 370 million active users, or more than the user base of Gmail and Yahoo! Mail combined. The next Hotmail will integrate with various Windows Live wave 4 products, including Office Web Apps and SkyDrive, and will address email clutter and the changing needs of email users.
"You're getting more email than ever, email that often requires you to leave your inbox to complete an action," Microsoft's Dick Craddock explained in a blog post announcing the new Hotmail. "You're getting bigger and bigger attachments, and you're using smartphones where you want to sync not only your email, but your contacts and calendar, too. We've built the new Hotmail, slated to launch this summer worldwide, to address the needs of the modern inbox."
Hotmail includes a number of new features, but unlike the last major update, which was jarring to long-term users of the service, this year's upgrade should be a lot less painful as the overall look and feel is consistent. It provides different ways to filter the email view, including Quick Views (for emails with photos, documents, or shipping updates) that work across your entire mailbox, as well as view-specific filters that will show you only email from your contacts, unread mail, or social networking updates. There's also a new Sweep function that will clean up your inbox and remove unwanted mail.
To address the tons of online content that pass through Hotmail—the service currently hosts over 15 billion Office documents, and 1.5 billion photos pass through Hotmail every single month—Microsoft is providing a way to host attachments on SkyDrive seamlessly. The effect is a dramatic leap in attachment capabilities: Users will be able to ship up to 200 photos or Office documents, each up to 50 MB in size, for a total of 10 GB of content per email. And a new Active Views feature displays commonly-shared information, like Hulu and YouTube videos and packaging tracking or shipping information right inside Hotmail, so you won't need to click links, copy and paste, or visit other sites.
The new Hotmail also comes with long-needed improvements to mobile access. The service is now compatible with the Exchange ActiveSync protocol, providing instant, over-the-air, push support for email, contacts, and calendars that is compatible with over 300 million smartphones around the world, including the iPhone. And Microsoft has redesigned its mobile websites for Hotmail and Windows Live Calendar, providing a much better experience for those who wish—or need to—access Hotmail from a touch-compatible mobile browser.
If you're interested in more information, my exhaustive review of the new Hotmail is available now on the SuperSite for Windows. The new Hotmail should begin rolling out to customers in mid-to-late June, according to Microsoft.